How Is the Remote Work Revolution Changing the Way Companies Approach Sustainability


There’s good news and bad news. So far, the world remains off-track in meeting climate change goals. However, this situation presents an enormous opportunity for companies to change their approach to sustainability and play a bigger role in the solution. A bottom-up remote work revolution is exactly what the planet needs. 

While technological innovations will eventually pave the way to a greener future, stopping climate change requires solutions people can easily implement here and now. The recent pandemic illustrated how changing how humans do business can bring rapid ecological improvements. 

Here’s how the remote work revolution is changing how companies approach sustainability and how the most forward-thinking organizations can take advantage. 

Change Can’t Wait for Those at the Top 

Despite agreements made at international conferences like COP26, many nations remain pitifully short of goals established to limit global temperature rise to within 1.5° Celsius of pre-industrial levels. Worse, even so-called progressive leaders continue to make decisions opposing these objectives. For example, the Biden Administration recently greenlighted the Willow Project despite the damage fossil fuels create. 

Waiting for climate change solutions to trickle down from the top is a suicide mission based on world leaders’ behaviors. For example, war is one of the biggest drivers of greenhouse emissions, and most governments don’t accurately track the damage or the massive amount of fossil fuels used by global military installations. Stopping climate change requires individual action and the active participation of society’s movers and shakers — business owners. 

Sustainability Solutions for the Here and Now 

Electric vehicles and solar-panel-covered parking lots may someday make commuting clean and green — but that’s hardly a reality for most people. In the U.S. alone, 28% of greenhouse gas emissions stem from the transport sector, and the average commuter spends 52 minutes in traffic. 

Any logical person can see that remote work saves time while reducing emissions. However, people don’t have to conjecture. The recent pandemic illustrated how cutting commuter traffic reduced emissions early in 2020 when lockdowns became de rigeur. 

Few people desire a return to government restrictions, but they could become necessary if climate change continues unchecked. Businesses can play a crucial role in preventing future lockdowns simply by allowing those who can work remotely to do so instead of mandating RTO. By doing so, they benefit themselves in several key ways: 

  • They ensure that personnel who must be onsite can get there. 
  • They reduce the need for expensive overhead — office space and utilities to run them cost money. 
  • They cut back on infectious disease spread — an office full of sick people isn’t good for productivity.
  • They gain a huge marketing advantage as a sustainable employer. Since the pandemic, more people than ever desire remote work and the best talent demands employers who offer it. Furthermore, customers will pay more for eco-friendliness, and companies can advertise their green commitment. 

Best of all, telework is a sustainability solution companies can implement now without the huge capital investments necessary for upgrading to green buildings. It’s positive that workers continue to lead the remote work revolution, with top talent demanding such accommodations. 

When employers do their share, climate change solutions will continue flowing from the bottom up, creating a better world for everyone without governmental interference. 

Customizable Sustainability Solutions for Every Business 

The remote work revolution makes sense for certain industries, like coding and freelancing. What about sectors that require onsite work, such as manufacturing, health care and service-related industries? How can leaders of such companies implement here-and-now sustainability solutions without a huge capital overlay? 

One solution is to give your team a break, reducing scheduled hours without a subsequent decline in pay or benefits. Switching to a 4-day, 32-hour workweek with alternating days off reduces vehicle traffic. It also compensates for the wage-productivity gap that has grown since 1979. It rewards workers for their hard work with the extra time they can use for personal development or raising their families, ultimately benefiting society. 

Such measures also benefit industry by reducing the need for part-time employees and the associated scheduling headaches. Overtime requests fill more readily when your staff doesn’t feel pushed past their limits. Furthermore, a short-term reduction in operations pales compared to the disruptions severe climate change can bring. 

Business and Industry Can — and Should — Lead the Green Revolution

The Industrial Revolution preceded climate change. Most people agree that the one making the mess should be responsible for cleaning it up. Business and industry should lead the remote work revolution if for no other reason than their actions are why humanity needs one in the first place. 

Furthermore, the success of democracy may depend on it. Such governmental systems demand the involvement of society’s most prominent individuals — namely, business leaders in a capitalistic system — to function as they should. Politicians make speeches, but industry guides their hands and decision-making processes. 

Letting climate change continue unchecked by failing to take logical measures now makes people lose faith in the system. Worsening severe storms, supply-chain breakdowns and out-of-control inflation have historically caused the rise of authoritarian dictatorships and the resulting horrors. By participating in the remote work revolution, your company does more than combat rising temperatures — it protects the freedoms that Americans hold dear. 

4 Tips for Advocating for Remote Work 

What if you aren’t a business owner? The following tips can help you advocate for the remote work revolution, even if you aren’t an industry bigwig. 

1. Be Selective 

You have a choice of where to work. If you’re in an industry where remote work makes sense, seek a company that allows it. Once you find your unicorn, give it your all. Show them you value your arrangement by outfitting your home office to maximize productivity and deliver consistent results. 

2. Support Companies That Allow Remote Work 

What if you already work for a fantastic company? You still have to shop. When you do, give preference to businesses that allow remote work. 

Get creative. For example, do you influence which new software programs your team implements? Give preference to tech companies that bucked the RTO trend in favor of sustainability and work-life balance for their team. 

3. Write Letters to the Editor 

The remote work revolution is ultimately worker-led, but they need your support to succeed. Already, RTO mandates have begun to fail as average office occupancy rates remain below 50% and companies start to reverse course rather than lose top talent. 

Some leaders may still fail to recognize the multiple advantages of remote work. However, they understand that demand drives sales. Each letter to the editor favoring remote work pressures business owners to choose the more sustainable course.  

4. Contact Your Representatives 

Change might not start at the top, but you can influence decision-makers. Anyone can call the Capitol switchboard to leave a message for their senators and representatives. 

Doing so now and often is vital, as even the Biden Administration aims to end remote work for federal employees — demand better. Remind those in power that doing so directly opposes international climate change goals. 

How the Remote Work Revolution Can Increase Corporate Sustainability

Addressing climate change means implementing simple, affordable solutions that are manageable now, not ten years into a future that may not exist if humanity doesn’t change course. While technological innovations promise cleaner commutes, implementing them on a wide enough scale isn’t feasible at present. The remote work revolution is. 

The recent pandemic illustrated how reducing commuter traffic can slash emissions. Companies can immediately boost their corporate sustainability by participating in the remote work revolution. Doing so has advantages beyond ongoing viability, including attracting top talent and building a reputation as a leader in the economy’s future. 

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